‘Mad Feast’ author talks about his writing process

Writing is about taking a risk, says author Matthew Gavin Frank.

“There is risk in the act of art making, but not the sort of risk that prevents us from taking chances and risking failure,” he said.

Author and poet Gavin Frank came to campus Tuesday, Oct. 22, to read several pieces he has written. The event was attended by upwards of 50 students and faculty.

Gavin Frank was introduced by Associate Professor of English Arra Ross.

Ross highlighted some of Gavin Frank’s accolades, as well as offering her own view of his works.

“It’s hard to categorize exactly what he does because it is so wonderfully delicious,” Ross said. “The way his writings work, they seem larger than life, but really they are large as life.”

Gavin Frank’s most recent book, “The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food,” was selected as a staff pick by The Paris Review and was also featured in the Wall Street Journal and Entertainment Weekly.

“The Mad Feast” features essays based on food from all 50 states, one of which Gavin Frank read during the event. Gavin Frank chose to read his essay on a Minnesota staple called hot dish. Hot dish is a popular food that Gavin Frank says is hard to describe.

“Hot dish is tough to define, but my favorite definition comes from a woman I met in St. Paul,” Gavin Frank said. “She defined it as ‘a catch-all casserole birthed in desperation.’”

He also discussed his plans to publish his next book in 2021. The book is based on the use of pigeons in the diamond industry as a way of smuggling diamonds.

“I’m finishing up edits on my book that’s due out in 2021 called ‘The Brief Atmospheric Future,’” Gavin Frank said. “(It’s) about the use of carrier pigeons in Southern and Western Africa’s diamond smuggling rings.”

He also talked about his thought process when writing and how he usually doesn’t know what the point of his writings are until others interpret them.

“I’ve often had readers tell me what my points are or what my books mean, and it’s constantly and wonderfully surprising,” Gavin Frank said.

Lonni Gilmour, a sophomore who attended the reading, said he was surprised by how much he liked the event.

“It was really neat,” Gilmour said. “I had never been to an event like this, and I really enjoyed how different it was.”

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